On July 1, the Florida Commissioner of Education said all public schools must reopen to students in person when the academic year begins next month. In the emergency order, Commissioner Richard Corcoran cited the importance not only of learning, but also of providing a place for “nutrition, socialization, counseling and extracurricular activities.” The order states that schools must be open five days a week, subject to guidance from local health authorities.

The Monroe County School District has already planned to reopen and published three alternative scenarios depending on the level of COVID-19 community spread. (The plan, published last week in the Keys Weekly, is available at keysweekly.com.) The Keys’ 50-person school task force based its plan on the responses from a poll of parents in early June, attempting to answer the “how” of getting back to school when the 2020-21 school year starts on Aug. 13.

Spoiler alert: Most parents want their kids back in school, learning in the classroom, if not full time, at least on a part-time basis; it also showed a majority of parents work outside the home, either full- or part-time.
Here is more of what the survey revealed:

The number of responses to the survey conducted in three languages: English, Spanish and Creole

More than half of parents said they would prefer students return to school either full-time or part-time. Only 12% said they prefer virtual school. Of the various measures the school district is considering for the prevention of disease spread, parents seemed to agree with all except one. Parents — at least 79% of them — did not agree with limiting either outdoor or gymnasium recreation time as a safety measure.

The number of students who require buses to get to school is unchanged from the past year. The other 60% of the student body arrives and departs school independently. The current reopening plan calls for students to wear masks on buses and in hallways when changing classrooms.

Almost 60% of families said they have access to computers if instruction goes virtual again and another 27% reported they borrowed a “device” from the district. Thirteen percent of parents said they do not have enough devices for every child in the household.

The majority of parents said they must work outside the home full-time and 37% said they work outside the home at least some of the time. Only 5% of parents work from home. About 50% of respondents said they had children in grade levels 5 and under.

The district is considering seven disease prevention measures. Here they are, ranked by parent preference:
Washing hands.
Temperature checks.
Modified school routines (such as diving the student population into two shifts per day, alternating days or alternating weeks).
One-way movement in the school hallways.
Eating meals in the classroom instead of the cafeteria.
No outdoor recess or gym. (21% of respondents agreed with the idea of cutting outdoor recess or gym classes.)

About 44 percent of parents surveyed said it was “highly necessary to reopen schools for the economy” and 44% said “a phased reopening is necessary for the economy.”

“We appreciate everyone who took the time to fill out our survey. The results helped us to polish our detailed response to the epidemic and how it will affect school in the coming year. We incorporated the survey results into our Guide for Reopening Schools document, which can be found on our website for those who want to know in detail what our plans are under various virus scenarios.” — Monroe County School District Superintendent Terri Axford. 

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